Female, Fat, and Facing a Jury? Uh-Oh
Date:  01-24-2013

New study finds that obese women are more likely to be convicted by male jurors
On June 24, 2010 Reentry Central posted an article about a Cornell University study that found attractive defendants fare better with jurors. According to the study:

  • Jurors were 22% more likely to convict an unattractive defendant than a good-looking one for non-serious crimes. When the crime was believed to be of a serious nature, such as murder, there were minor differences in the conviction rates of attractive versus non-attractive defendants.

  • Unattractive defendants were given longer sentences than their better looking counterparts - on the average, 22 months longer.

    Now, a new study shows that the scales of justice can be unfavorably tipped when a female defendant tips the bathroom scale at a weight considered to be above societal expectations of what is “acceptable.”

    ABC News reported that a study undertaken by the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University found that female defendants who were overweight were more likely to be convicted by male jurors than thinner female defendants. Ironically, women who participated in the study, and whose worth in society is often measured by the measurement of their waistlines, did not subscribe to the anti-obesity bias as the males did. click here to go to website

    Highlights of the study, The Influence of a Defendant’s Body Weight on Perceptions of Guilt, follow:

    OBJECTIVE: To investigate the influence of a defendant’s weight on simulated jurors’ perceptions of guilt.

    DESIGN AND METHODS: Participants were 471 lean and overweight adults who read a vignette describing a case of check fraud while viewing one of four images of the alleged defendant (a lean male, a lean female, an obese male or an obese female). Participants rated the defendant’s culpability on a 5-point Likert scale and completed measures of anti-fat attitudes.

    RESULTS: Male respondents endorsed greater overall weight bias than females. A three-way interaction was detected between participant sex, defendant sex and defendant weight on perceptions of guilt such that when the defendant was female, male participants were significantly more likely to find her guilty if she was obese than if she was lean. In addition, lean male participants were significantly more likely to believe that the obese female defendant met criteria for check fraud, and indicated greater belief she would be a repeat offender, compared with the lean female defendant. There were no differences in perceptions of guilt or esponsibility between the obese male and the lean male defendants.

    CONCLUSION: The results of this novel study indicate that both weight and gender of a defendant may affect juror perceptions of guilt and responsibility.

    The study also states that guilt or innocence may be decided by attractiveness, race, gender,socio-economic status, or even religion, proving what most already know - - justice is not blind, but can be myopic at times.

    Source: ABCNews, January 22, 2013
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